Quote and Thought of the Week:question mark in sky

“What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but n the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God.”

~ Fr. Jacques Philippe: In the School of the Holy Spirit

 

Fr. Phillipe speaks about the reality that when we encounter trials we often rebel or bear them unwillingly.  His solution is to accept God’s invitation to embrace a positive and fruitful attitude quoting St. Therese as a model: “I choose it all!” He says this means “I choose everything that God wants for me.  I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen”.  The exterior reality does not change but ones interior attitude does and that makes a significant difference.  “This consent”, says Fr. Philippe, “inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad” (Pg. 34).

 

Come Holy Spirit assist me to respond to the grace you’ve given me to practice abandonment!


In our ministry, whether it is in Religious Education, RCIA or with Youth it is crucial that we communicate that being a saint is attainable with God’s help.  Helping others see the heroic virtue of saints is very important but it needs also to be seen as attainable to reach verses something that is not possible for the average Catholic.  Butler’s Lives of the Saints is a wonderful contribution to the Catholic but if he had a flaw it was that the saints were completely flaw-less and totally perfect from head to foot.  Reading his book is inspiring but it can also be a little discouraging because most of the people that read it realize they are not perfect and have not yet come close to the perfect that he speaks about.

Lucy Fuchs wrote an article for St. Anthony Messenger and came up with 7 characteristics of the saints that we can imitate.

Seven Characteristics of the Saints

All saints are filled with the love of God.

They have chosen God above all others and made a definite commitment to God.

In her book Saint Watching (Viking Press), Phyllis McGinley writes that saints are human beings with an added dimension. “They are obsessed by goodness and by God as Michelangelo was obsessed by line and form, as Shakespeare was bewitched by language, Beethoven by sound.”

All saints love other human beings.

It cannot be any other way. In the First Letter of John (4:20) we read: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

McGinley also says that, although saints may be different in many ways, they are always generous. You will never find a stingy saint.

All saints are risk-takers.

When God called, they answered. For some it was taking a chance on a new way of life in a new place. In the Old Testament, we have the example of Abraham, called at an old age to leave his country and to go to the place God had selected for him. Even today, it is difficult for older people to leave their level of comfort and to face the new and unknown.

Abraham’s story is a marvelous example of trust in God, but even more so of a decision to plunge into the unknown. Like Abraham, saints responded to the graces that were given to them. Some were called to be popes, bishops, abbots or abbesses. Others found their calling in a quiet, reserved life, far away from the center of activity.

St. Julian of Norwich lived in a small cell attached to a church. She was even walled in, but that did not keep people away; they came to her and asked for her spiritual advice.

St. Catherine of Siena lived at home, not in a convent, as a person dedicated to God. People flocked to her, but not because she wanted them to.

Others, whose names are not well-known, lived simple lives among their families and friends, serving God with all their hearts, but never making a splash in the world.

The saints are humble, willingly and lovingly attributing to God all that they have and all that they will ever be.

Humility has always had a poor press; many people think that humility means saying derogatory things about oneself. Far from it! The saints showed their humility by using whatever gifts they had to perfection, but never attributing these gifts to themselves.

St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were brilliant men and they did not go around saying how stupid they were. They did acknowledge, however, that all they knew was as nothing compared to the infinite wisdom of God.

Saints are people of prayer.

Some, especially members of religious orders, had entire days of prayer. Others found their time with God in other ways.

Dorothy Day—not canonized but recognized by many as a truly holy person—started her day with prayer but said that she met God daily in the crowds of the poor who came to her hospitality house. None of the saints saw prayer as a waste of time or as an activity for only the weak or naive.

The saints are not perfect.

Each of the saints had human flaws and faults. They made mistakes. Even at the end of their lives, they still found themselves in need of contrition, pardon and reconciliation.

St. Jerome, it is said, had a fearful temper. When another scholar of his time, a former friend, Rufinus, questioned his conclusions, St. Jerome wrote pamphlet after pamphlet blasting him.

St. Aloysius apparently had bad timing in his spiritual quest; the other novices were just as happy when he was not there. He was the kind of saint who did not seem to know how to enjoy the things of this life.

Some saints misunderstood their own visions. When St. Francis was told to rebuild the Church, he thought it meant the local church building. It is interesting and amusing to note that Jesus did not clarify the request for him until after he had exerted a lot of sweat and energy repairing an old church.

St. Joan of Arc was coerced into signing a retraction of her visions, although she later retracted that retraction.

St. John Vianney, “the Curé of Ars,” did not believe the children of La Salette concerning their visions of the Virgin Mary.

During the time of the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th, when one pope resided in Avignon and another pope in Rome, saints found themselves on opposite sides of the rival popes, as confused as many of the common people were.

The saints are people of their times.

One wonders how anyone escapes being of his or her time. There were injustices around the saints that they did not speak out against. St. Paul did not condemn slavery but encouraged slaves to obey their masters. St. Thomas Aquinas considered women unequal to men. He believed their only task in life was to bear children.

If we look at the lives of all the saints, we can certainly find faults. Far from discouraging us, this can give us courage. Perfection is not what we are striving for, unless it is as perfect a love as possible.

 

 

What characteristics would you add?  How do you motivate your students or those you catechize to be holy and respond to their vocation to be a saint?

 

 


Today in our summer program students took an hour a 15 minutes to visit 5 saints.  Each group (divided by grade level) spent 15 minutes a piece learning about St. Francis Xavier, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Nicholas of Myra.  The Catechists and kids seemed to really enjoy learning about these saints through people dressing up as them.  During this Summer School of Religion Program students are also learning about 5 other saints (this year I’ve asked that 10 saints be covered).  I am so grateful for those who were willing to dress up as a saint today and share about the holy lives of these saints.  The theme for our Program this year is “We Are Called” and one of the phrases that I’ve emphasized is that we are called to be saints.

May the Holy Spirit lead these children and all of us to be holy and to be saints…for “We Are Called”!

 

 


A few days ago I picked up a book entitled Church History in the Lives of the Saints by Fr. Joseph Dunney.  It was written in 1944.  Fr. Dunney has a wonderful way of describing things.

One line that stuck out when speaking about St. Peter was: “The chief disciple might, yes, would, falter under sudden onsets of trial, yet never was there question of his abiding allegiance.”  I hope that might be said of me when I’m no longer on earth.

Another great description of St. Peter’s qualities goes as follows:

“Peter was affectionate but of quick temper: brave, yet not seldom wavering: rough and ready, none the less sincere, single of eye, clean of heart.  Heir to a past with all its bluff and brawn, his defects of quality had to be corrected.  Well for Peter that he has a Divine Master who can teach him to obey, take his impetuous spirit, demand that he humbly submit to the yoke.” 

What a great picture he paints of St. Peter.  I think St. Peter is a great model for catechists.  He had a heart full of zeal and excitement to follow the Master.  His imperfection shows us that one isn’t “all or nothing” but a disciple in training and always being more and more conformed to Christ.  We can all relate to that.  🙂

Fr. Dunney, when speaking of the intense days of Roman persecution under the Emperor Nero describes the suffering Church and it’s leader:

“Think of St. Peter during these terrible days, living in the thick of trial, going about strengthening his flock.  The Vicar of Christ was destined himself to “bear witness” and become a victim in the gruesome festival!  His Divine Master had made his very clear- “Amen, Amen, I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst.  But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee.”  Ancient tradition describes the dire perils Peter faced, the pit of danger that yawned beneath his feet.”
 

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and inspiration of catechists…Pray for us.


Who Is Your Hero?

Glimpses of heroism are exciting aren’t they?  They help motivate us to keep going and to remember that we can do it!  Lisa Mladnich recently wrote an article entitled: Humble Heroes: Teaching Children the Value of Suffering which discuss how children can be inspired by the many heroes of faith we can tap into as Catholics.  We all desire the example of heroes of the Faith to inspire and encourage us.  There are many heroes in our Catholic tradition but the saints are the ones who inspire me most.  The things they endured for the love of God never cease to amaze me.

10 Ways

Here are some ways Lisa suggests parents and catechists can do to inspire children toward a heroic faith:

  1. Pray for them and their families. Make sacrifices for them at least one day a week: fast from junk food, gossip, or procrastination; offer up your chores or exercise.
  2. Remind them of the value of suffering. Read the story of Christ’s passion and explain that in His holy sacrifice Jesus endowed suffering with redemptive power. Help them offer up their sufferings for others and thereby engage them in helping to save souls.
  3. Point out the quiet heroism of those who care for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled. Ask them for examples in their own lives.
  4. Introduce them to the lives of biblical heroes and Catholic saints throughout the liturgical year. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “By keeping the memorials of the saints . . . the Church on earth shows that she is connected with the liturgy of heaven” (1195). See here.
  5. Ask for the intercession of these heavenly allies and tell your students their stories of faith. Presented vividly, their lives are captivating and thrilling to children. They’ll love you for sharing them. See here and here.
  6. Share your own faith walk with them. In brief, appropriate doses, there’s nothing like the power of a personal witness. Listen to their responses and respect their experiences. The Holy Spirit works in marvelous and mysterious ways.
  7. Remember that you are the face of the Church to some of your students, since many are not taken to Mass on a regular basis. Teach them with great kindness and enthusiasm. While maintaining a calm and loving discipline, be affectionate in your attitude toward them, even if they seem disinterested. As a wonderful catechist said to me recently, “They often remember you and how you made them feel more than they remember the lesson.”
  8. Remind them that our heroes are broken, like we are. This is a great topic to bring up with children of all ages, especially in preparation for First Reconciliation. With the notable exceptions of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ, all of our heroes were/are sinners like us. And God still treasures us and uses us to accomplish great things! Consider offering the graces of your confessions for young people, as they are led to humbly seek God’s will and discover the hero in themselves.
  9. Check out this beautiful article by Sarah Reinhard, about Our Lady’s willingness to suffer in faithfulness to her Son.
  10. Order Barbara Falk’s excellent CD: “Fostering Heroism in Your Children”

 

What ways have you found helpful in inspiring children to a heroic faith?


Pope Benedict recently concluded a series of talks on the role of saints in the Church and living a life of Holiness during his Wednesday Audiences at the Vatican.  He ended the series by discussing 3 ways to be a saint, stressing the fact that holiness is not only for a select few but for all.  Here is what he shared:

1) “Never let a Sunday go by without an encounter with the risen Christ in the Eucharist; this is not an added burden, it is light for the entire week.”

2) “Never begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God” in prayer.

3) “And along the pathway of our lives, follow the road signs that God has given us in the Ten Commandments, read in the light of Christ; they are nothing other than explanations of what is love in specific situations.”

This should be the very minimum for those involved in any form of ministry.  The good news is that it is not burdensome or time consuming, but does require a willing and open heart who will intentionally choose to follow Christ and live a holy life.  May the Holy Spirit continue to lead you and guide you!

I’ll conclude with the following words from Pope Benedict: “How great and beautiful and also simple is the Christian vocation seen in this light. All of us are called to holiness.”


Happy Memorial of St. Nicholas!  Yesterday, I dressed up as St. Nicholas, no not Santa Claus but St. Nicholas for the Pre-School 3 and 4 year old’s as well as our kindergarten students.  I had my Miter, a priestly robe, and a beard.  It was an enjoyable time with the students.  Many catechists commented on how attentive their students were.

If you have class this week, here are a few things to keep in mind and possibly work sharing about St. Nicholas.

1. Why is St. Nicholas the Patron Saint of Children?

He is known especially in the West as the patron saint of children.  There are many stories about him assisting children who were in danger or harms way as well as the many healings and miracles that occurred while he was alive and after his death.  I’ll comment a little more under St. Nicholas and Santa regarding his patronage of children.

2. Why is St. Nicholas the Patron Saint of Brides (those to be married).

The most popular story is Nicholas discovering that 3 young women who were fairly poor and would not be able to Marry (some stories say they would have been sold into slavery)  in the future unless they had a dowry (the sum of money given from the bride’s family to the groom’s to help provide for the newly married couple).  One night, Nicholas threw/tossed three bags of gold through an open window and they landed in the stockings of the three girls who were drying their socks above the fire place (other stories say they landed in or just beside their shoes).  Some countries even to this day have children leave their shoes out the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas in order for their shoes to be filled with candy and treats.

3. Why is he Patron Saint of Sailors and those setting out on boats/ships?

Tradition has it that he was on a ship with many others and there arose a fierce storm.  All feared that death was near.  They realized that  Nicholas was calm and in prayer.  Soon after the storm ceased and all were safe.

4. What is the the connection/link between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus?

The word Santa Claus is a derivative of the name St. Nicholas.  It is said that Nicholas spent the wealth he received from his parents on giving gifts to others to those who were in need.  In many places a tradition of anonymous/secret gift-giving began after his death.

5. What can we learn from St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas like all the saints are models of imitating Christ.  His compassion, love, and desire to give unconditionally are all qualities that model Christ-like behavior.  He stands out as a dynamic and vivid model for us to imitate.  St. Nicholas and Santa Claus should keep our eyes focused on Christ.  Christ is the reason for the Season.  Without the Birth of the Messiah, the Word becoming flesh in human history, the tradition of Santa Claus coming once a year on Christmas would have never come to be what it is today.  A perfect image is the kneeling Santa before the Christ child.  Santa Claus should teach us to model Holiness – Ho Ho Ho (I teach kids that this is short for Holy, Holy, Holy).

Do one thing today that reflects the kindness, compassion and generosity of St. Nicholas who did it all for the love and glory of God!  St. Nicholas…Pray for us!


Last night I went Trick or Treating with my family.  It was a joy to watch my kids get excited about dressing up and going trick or treating.  My son went as St. George who “fought the dragon”.  He was so excited about it!  My daughter’s went as a princess and a Bumble Bee – not quite as inspirational.  In my experience with secular holidays I find that people are liturgical by nature – they want to celebrate.  They want to decorate and manifest a sense of joy, excitement and celebration in their lives.  Our Catholic faith is so rich because we have this as a natural part of our tradition.  Unfortunately we struggle to decorate and manifest the various Solemnities, Feast Days and Memorials of various saints and events during the Church year.  At least in our homes we struggle to decorate and celebrate like we do for holidays like Halloween, Valentines Day and Fourth of July.   I believe there are various reasons for this but suffice it to say we as Catholics should really work toward celebrating various Feasts of the Church Year.

3 Ways to Celebrate:

1. Celebrate All Saints Day as a special day – not just the day after Halloween.  Make going to Mass on All Saints Day a very special event.  Have a special dessert celebrating All Saints and talk about your favorite saints.

2.  Celebrate the saint your child is named after.  Make that day a special day where that person gets to choose what is for dinner.

3. Always connect the secular holidays to our Catholic Faith.  For example share with children that Halloween focuses (as least much of it) on what is scary and dark.  Christ is the light who dispels the darkness.  Also, the Saints are the opposite of darkness and fear because they were filled with the light of Christ.  It is the saints who we can go to in order to be protected and who can guide us on our path to heaven.

Happy Solemnity of All Saints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All You Holy Men and Women of God…Pray For Us!


“Martyrdom makes disciples like their Master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like him by the shedding of blood. Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and supreme test of love. And while it is given to few, all however must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, Austin Flannery translation).